Is the Bay Area heading for an eviction tsunami or drizzle? A rush for courthouses or rental assistance programs? A massive displacement of tenants or a slow return to the status quo?
California’s moratorium on evictions expires on September 30, paving the way for landlords to begin removing tenants for non-payment of rent during the pandemic. About 7% of California tenants are in arrears with rent, which is an estimated debt of $ 3.5 billion, according to an analysis released in August by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. And unemployment is still higher than before COVID.
But removing a tenant during the ever-volatile and evolving pandemic will be much more complicated, costly and time-consuming than in the pre-COVID era. Landlords will regain the right to evict tenants for non-payment, but tenants can also avail themselves of limited protections until March by requesting rent relief from the state.
Advocacy agencies, state housing officials, and nonprofit social agencies have prepared for numerous requests for assistance and navigation in the tenant-landlord relationship under the new state law.
Why did the state impose a moratorium?
Public health experts estimated at the onset of the pandemic that keeping people in stable housing would slow the spread of the deadly virus. Governor Gavin Newsom announced an emergency shelter-in-place declaration on March 19, 2020. Emergency measures curbed displacement and homelessness at the start of the pandemic and offered leniency to tenants as the Unemployment was skyrocketing and the economy was faltering. And a deportation ban has continued in various forms – including a California Supreme Court-sanctioned ruling of some deportation hearings in state courts and two legislative extensions before ending this month.
What changes for owners?
Landlords have been allowed to remove tenants during the pandemic under certain limited circumstances: for extremely bad behavior, health and safety concerns, or if they are considering selling the property or moving a family member in. Non-payment could not be a ground for expulsion. if a tenant has given notice under oath, she has been affected by COVID.
From October 1, landlords will be able to file an eviction request because a tenant owes rent from the past year. Landlords must prove that they applied to state or local rent assistance programs for the tenant and that they were turned down (possibly because the tenant made too much money to qualify for assistance) or that the tenant has not completed his part of the request for relief. .
If a tenant has paid at least 25% of the rent due in a pandemic by September 30, they are usually protected against eviction. But missed rent next month can be treated the same as pre-pandemic delinquency and increase the risk of a tenant moving.
What changes for tenants?
Tenants can again face 3-day notices starting with the missed October rent, giving them a tight deadline to pay or for the court process to begin in earnest. But families have a powerful weapon to avoid displacement: requesting rental assistance through the state, Housing is the key, or through various local programs available in San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco and Fremont.
A tenant can show a landlord that they’ve asked for help and stay the lawsuit. If a request for tenant assistance has been denied, lawyers can proceed. According to state law, a tenant cannot be evicted for debt that accrued between March and August 2020, although landlords can sue in small claims court to recover the money.
An approved request for help will end an eviction for nonpayment, said Jane Wong, housing attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “Our strongest recommendation is that they apply,” she said.
Will there be a sudden increase in evictions and homelessness?
Lawyers representing tenants and landlords doubt landlords will rush to courthouses and file eviction cases. The legal process is more complicated than the pre-COVID rules, and probably a burden most homeowners won’t want to take on their own. The California Apartment Association recommends that its members hire an attorney to navigate the process. Tenant advocates also recommend legal counsel.
CAA’s Debra Carlton said most landlords just want to get paid the rent arrears. “I don’t think there will be a tsunami of evictions.”
Will the Emergency Rental Assistance Program prevent travel?
California’s federally funded $ 5.2 billion aid program was designed to preserve tenant housing and help homeowners pay off their mortgages, property taxes and other expenses. California has allocated an additional $ 2 billion to cover unpaid utilities. Newsom has also increased rental repayment from 80% to 100% for landlords.
In theory, the influx of public money into the rental market should help tenants settle their debts and keep their apartments. But the program was marred by a complex application process, a myriad of local programs with different eligibility requirements, as well as confusion and reluctance from landlords and tenants.
The state distributed $ 584 million to landlords and tenants of the $ 2.6 billion requested from the state fund at the end of September. Local programs, like those in San Jose, Oakland, Fremont and San Francisco, are not included in the count.
CAA urges cities and counties to turn the administration of local aid programs over to the state. San José, San Francisco and Los Angeles have recently transferred their responsibilities.
Housing officials of all stripes recognize that the process of settling debts, preventing evictions and helping homeowners is complex and can vary from city to city. Landlords are encouraged to hire lawyers, and troubled tenants should seek help from local nonprofits and social agencies for specific help.